Portugal finished as the runner-up in Group B, and will now face Uruguay in the Round of 16. It will kick off Saturday, June 30th at 2 p.m. Eastern.
Here’s what we said before the match:
With four points in their first two matches, Portugal needs a good result on the final day of Group B play to assure passage to the next round. They are tied atop Group B with Spain, and their path to the next round is not yet clearly paved.
Portugal takes on Iran on Monday, needing at least one point to advance. Depending on that result, combined with Spain’s result against Morocco, will determine whether Portugal take on Russia or Uruguay in the next round.
Don’t expect Iran to roll over and allow Portugal safe passage. Iran has been one of the feistiest small teams in the tournament, even though they’ve yet to score a goal. They scored three points in their opener on a 95th minute own goal, then gave Spain all they could handle, falling 1-0 to the former champions.
In addition to the on-field physicality, Iran’s fans have been doing their part as well. Iranian supporters camped outside Cristiano Ronaldo’s hotel this weekend, blasting vuvzelas and whistles into the early morning.
Even without restful sleep, Ronaldo has been one of the most dangerous players in the tournament. After a heroic hat trick in the opener against Spain, Ronaldo slotted home his team’s only goal in their win over Morocco. With the winner, Ronaldo passed Puskas for the most international goals by a European player with 85.
Despite the victory over Morocco, Portugal manager Fernando Santos was not happy with his team.
“We have to look at this and we have to talk about it,” Santos said after the match. “We lost control of the game, we misplaced a lot of passes, we lost confidence. It is true that I am not happy with the performance of my team.”
“It was inexplicable,” he added. “If in a match against players like they have, if you don’t have the ball, they will wear you down and you get into trouble. Nothing is finished yet. We have to play a very difficult game against Iran and we want to top the group,” he added.
Santos is right. Portugal became European champions by playing tight defense and executing when given opportunities. If they relax against the top teams, they could have another disappointing World Cup finish.
If they can top the group, Portugal will play Russia in the Round of 16 on Sunday, July 1st. If Portugal miss out on the top spot, either by drawing Iran or losing to Spain on goal differential, they will face off against Luis Suarez and Uruguay on Saturday, June 30th.
That top spot, along with the other group finishes, could go a long way towards determining Portugal’s chances of winning this tournament. If Portugal win the group, they’ll stay on the right side of the bracket. The left side, where Portugal would go if they finish as runners-up, could contain group winners like France, Brazil and Belgium.